No longer king of the jungle: New fund to aid Africa's lions

August 11, 2017 by Krista Larson
This photo taken on Sunday, April 3, 2011 and released by Panthera shows an adult male lion during a joint Panthera/DPN (Direction des Parcs Nationaux) lion survey in Niokolo-Koba National Park in south eastern Senegal. Senegal's Niokolo-Koba National Park is home to fewer than 50 lions after years of poaching decimated not only them but also their prey. Conservationists are launching a new fund they hope will save lions from going extinct, particularly in West Africa. Only about 400 lions remain in the region out of the total 20,000 worldwide. The Lion Recovery Fund is getting startup contributions from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. (Philipp Henschel/Panthera via AP)

Senegal's Niokolo-Koba National Park is home to fewer than 50 lions after years of poaching decimated not only them but also their prey. Small patches of lion skin are sold at local fetish markets for $10, and their bones have a thriving market in Asia.

Sightings have become so rare that it once took researchers conducting a lion survey in the area two months before they spotted one of the big cats. Conservationists, however, believe the park could one day rebound.

"This landscape is still in fantastic shape," said Philipp Henschel, West and Central Africa regional director for the lion program at Panthera, a global wild cat conservation organization. "This area could potentially, if well protected, harbor between 400 and 500 lions."

A $150,000 grant from a fund launched this week by the Wildlife Conservation Network and The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is aimed at better equipping Niokolo-Koba's park rangers for those efforts.

The Lion Recovery Fund is initially providing $800,000 toward bolstering lions' habitat across the continent, from Senegal in the west to Tanzania in the east as well as Zambia and Malawi in southern Africa.

"Lions in Africa are facing a whole range of human threats that are increasing in scope as the human and livestock populations grow," said Peter Lindsey, conservation initiatives director for the Wildlife Conservation Network.

This photo taken on Sunday, April 3, 2011 and released by Panthera shows an adult male lion during a joint Panthera/DPN (Direction des Parcs Nationaux) lion survey in Niokolo-Koba National Park in south eastern Senegal. Senegal's Niokolo-Koba National Park is home to fewer than 50 lions after years of poaching decimated not only them but also their prey. Conservationists are launching a new fund they hope will save lions from going extinct, particularly in West Africa. Only about 400 lions remain in the region out of the total 20,000 worldwide. The Lion Recovery Fund is getting startup contributions from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. (Philipp Henschel/Panthera via AP)

Many wildlife areas "are really suffering from a lack of funding and resources," he said.

The situation is particularly dire in West Africa, where the lion sub-species has been classified as "critically endangered."

Only about 400 lions remain there out of the total 20,000 worldwide, Henschel said. About 90 percent of those in West Africa are in a protected area that spans parts of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Startup support for the Lion Recovery Fund came from The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which previously has partnered on elephant conservation issues, Lindsey said. They are pledging that 100 percent of donations to the fund will go directly toward work on the ground, without overhead costs.

This photo taken on Sunday, April 3, 2011 and released by Panthera shows an adult male lion during a joint Panthera/DPN (Direction des Parcs Nationaux) lion survey in Niokolo-Koba National Park in south eastern Senegal. Senegal's Niokolo-Koba National Park is home to fewer than 50 lions after years of poaching decimated not only them but also their prey. Conservationists are launching a new fund they hope will save lions from going extinct, particularly in West Africa. Only about 400 lions remain in the region out of the total 20,000 worldwide. The Lion Recovery Fund is getting startup contributions from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. (Philipp Henschel/Panthera via AP)

Explore further: South Africa approves export of 800 lion skeletons this year

Related Stories

South Africa approves export of 800 lion skeletons this year

June 28, 2017

Some 800 skeletons of captive-bred lions can be legally exported from South Africa this year, the government said Wednesday, meeting demand for the bones in parts of Asia while alarming critics who believe the policy threatens ...

Lions are critically endangered in West Africa

January 9, 2014

A report published today concludes that the African lion is facing extinction across the entire West African region. The West African lion once ranged continuously from Senegal to Nigeria, but the new paper reveals there ...

Lions in west and central africa apparently unique

August 12, 2016

Lions in West and Central Africa form a unique group, only distantly related to lions in East and Southern Africa. Biologists at Leiden University confirm this in an article published in Scientific Reports.

Recommended for you

World's smallest tape recorder is built from microbes

November 23, 2017

Through a few clever molecular hacks, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have converted a natural bacterial immune system into a microscopic data recorder, laying the groundwork for a new class of technologies ...

A possible explanation for how germlines are rejuvenated

November 23, 2017

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers affiliated with the University of California and Calico Life Sciences, has discovered a possible explanation regarding how human germlines are rejuvenated. In their paper published in the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.